I have a problem with Dickens: his characters are too Manichean, either wholly good or wholly bad. The same can be said for this collection of British movies based on adaptations of his works, but in this instance all three movies are (almost) wholly good. The DVD set was initially purchased by me primarily for my collection of Dirk Bogarde movies, but having watched all three films more than twice, I conclude that this is a fantastic selection. Each film (using the Amazon criteria) merits four stars, but in this instance the whole is greater than the parts and merits five.
The oldest feature here is David Lean's `Great Expectations' of 1946 in its BFI restoration. It has a fantastically atmospheric production design. Its only misfortune for me is that I had already seen Charlotte Rampling play Miss Havisham: anyone else playing this role is going to be an anticlimax. For this disc, the only extra worth listing is the stills gallery.
David Lean repeated his Dickens triumph two years later with probably the most renowned `Oliver twist' ever seen on film. Another BFI restoration, its opening shots of extreme weather and his brilliant use of dramatic shadows makes the film a masterpiece of its day. The extras include a contemporary casting appeal by Tony Wager (who played the young Pip in `Great Expectations'); some good production stills; and a twenty-four-minute documentary from 2000 in which various members of the production crew provide some background information. (It's a shame the late John Howard Davies does not appear.)
`A Tale of Two Cities' of 1958 was directed by Ralph Thomas. In his biography of Bogarde, John Coldstream described the star's part as Sydney Carton as one of those that boosted his sex appeal, "that transformed him from `put to bed' to `take to bed'." There are, though, problems with this film that cannot be gone into here, but it is nevertheless imaginatively put together. Thomas apparently deliberately shot it in black and white, but I wonder if the 4:3 screen ratio is original: there is no reference to this being a BFI restoration. Anyway, the disc comes with written biographies of Bogarde, Thomas, and Dorothy Tutin; lots of excellent still shots taken behind-the-scenes; and another twenty-four-minute documentary from 2000 in which Thomas, Tutin, and Christopher Lee appear.
All in all this is a fantastic selection that is entertaining on so many levels and is equally good value for money for any student of the cinema.